2/17/14

Google Webmaster Helps You With Writing Content: Watch YouTube Videos and More

For those writing blog posts and articles for web sites, Google's constant evolution as a search engine can be overwhelming - how can you get your content noticed by Google and therefore found and read by people (other than your mother and your friends)?

The answer to that question seems to change every day, but the key is providing the best writing you can create for your intended reader. And Google isn't aloof - there are lots of helps provided by Google online to help you reach your goals.

Google Webmaster Tools are available to you here. Perhaps an easier way to learn the basics is to watch a few Google instructional videos, like this one:


 

2/10/14

Hashtag Tip: Hashtagify.Me is Great Help in Choosing Great Hashtags (for Lawyers and Everyone Else)

hashtag, number sign, public domain image
Parents and children don’t always speak the same language, of course. Sheldon Cooper and Penny can get confused in their conversations, too. Not everyone communicates with the same vocabulary, which is fascinating and wonderful except when you’re considering hashtags in social media.

Hashtags have to be somewhat of a common denominator among lots of folk's vocabulary or they’re not doing much good.

Suffering Hashtag Frustration?


Which brings me to a conversation I had with a frustrated client a couple of weeks ago who is a lawyer dipping his toe into Twitter. Hashtags? If he had any hair left on his head, it would be gone now just over his frustration of finding hashtags to include with his tweets.

Hashtags are Important to Twitter and Google Plus and Facebook and More


One of the hurdles lawyers face with Twitter or Google+ (when they decide to delve into social media at all) is that lawyers think like lawyers. I remember being told by a UTLaw professor (Treece, Torts) that the theme of law school wasn’t to learn the law, it was to learn to think like a lawyer. To think differently when I left the building than when I first entered. Every lawyer out there has heard the same thing, countless times. “Thinking like a lawyer” - the reason for the Socratic Method, right? (Or at least one of them.)

It’s true, too. Lawyers do think differently, and this is great when considering all the potential ramifications of a contract being negotiated or when negotiating the settlement of a wrongful death case - but it’s sometimes problematic when attorneys are hunched over their keyboard, deciding what terms they should use to index their social media post or tweet.

Hashtags are tools you can use to index your tweet or post to help others find your content even if they aren’t following you, aren’t in your community, etc. Hashtags are helpful.

In indexing their social media with hashtags, lawyers may toss off a couple of words with an “#” in front and think “that’s that.” However, those hashtags may not be as advantageous to the attorney as other choices can be.

Lawyers tend to use words with which they are familiar, or which apply to their particular case or deal, rather than stopping to consider that these words may not be the best choice in drawing potential readers to their content (even sophisiticated ones).

Hashtags, after all, are just ways to index what you’ve written so others can find what you’ve shared. Consider these alternatives: Litigation vs. Lawsuit; Coverage vs. Insurance; Mortgage vs Loan; Housing vs. Property or RealEstate; Accident vs. Crash.

Lawyer or not, anyone using hashtags should be choosing words that they believe are familiar to their intended reader.  If you are writing for teenagers, then consider what words will work best as hashtags for them, not the words that work best for you and your peers.  You get the idea.

Try Hashtagify.me 


One option? Synonyms, sure. However, there’s a free service online that can help you find hashtags to use as well as discovering trending hashtags and more. It’s Hashtagify.me - try it and see if what your chosen hashtags provide as options when you input them into the Hashtagify.me word machine. (By the way, Hashtagify.me has the Highest Trust Rating at ScamAdviser).

2/3/14

Online Review Defamation Case: Jury Verdict is in for Dietz Development LLC v. Perez

public domain image, firecrackers warning, Be Wise
Late last Friday afternoon, as juries are wont to do, the verdict was reached in a Virginia defamation case that I’ve been following for awhile now: Perez v. Dietz Development, LLC (for details in the case, read my earlier post and for the dance turn the case took up at the Virginia Supreme Court read this).

Bottom line, both the plaintiff and the defendant were held to be guilty of defamation by the Virginia jury — and no damages were awarded to either side. Zowie.

It took the jurors the full Friday to deliberate the case, where Fairfax County’s Jane Perez was sued by her contractor for alleged harm to his business (around $750,000) because of the negative reviews that she wrote about her experience with his company in online reviews at Yelp.com as well as Angie’s List.

That’s defamation claim, round one.

Defamation claim, round two, hit when the owner of the company, a man named Christopher Dietz, went online and wrote some stuff in response to the things that Jane Perez had written. Things that Perez would argue defamed her.

Talk about finger-pointing.

Jury Finds Defamation in Perez v. Dietz Development 

Now, each side can argue that they were right — the other side has been found guilty of defamation. Of course, each side has to walk away with no award money in their pocket to cover the costs of litigating this case through a week of trial, much less that appellate review round to the state’s high court.

Who knows what the bottom line is for either of them once all the dollars and cents are added up. (Perez was assisted by the ACLU and Public Citizen, FYI.)

Here’s the thing: the victim of a negative online review (which the jury agreed was defamatory) took the same action that many lawyers understand: he responded to the bad review, and in doing so found himself faced with a defamation claim against him and months and months of this controversy being spotlighted in the local media. As well as spending lots of time and money in the fight.

This is not a lawyer online review case. It is, however, something for lawyers to consider before they decide to reply to any negative online review that pops up on an online review site like Yelp, Avvo, YellowPages.com, etc.

The Dietz Lesson for Lawyers Deciding How to Handle a Bad Online Review 


Lawyers and law firms have lots to consider before taking up their arms in battle against a negative online review.  Practical things that may fly in the face of principles and true justice.  What are the consequences of a lawyer's responding to an online review that is negative, maybe even defamatory?

Will another lawyer be all too happy to pursue that unhappy client’s defamation claim against the attorney or his firm?

Are these cases akin to the warnings that lawyers get when pondering a lawsuit over unpaid attorneys’ fees (i.e., that they are inviting a counterclaim for malpractice no matter how weak it may be, as a strategic defense play)?

Just one more consideration in how to deal with negative reviews these days. It may be painful to be silent in the face of a disturbing, negative online review, but many may argue that it is the prudent thing to do.  Particularly when lawyers are involved and there's the possibility of Bar disciplinary action in addition to civil litigation (as was recently faced by an Illinois attorney who responded to a negative online review, now she's been disciplined for her actions).

Those interested in learning more about this case can review the Complaint filed by Christopher Dietz and Dietz Development that started this lawsuit back in October 2012:

1/15/14

Tool Tip: WordWeb is Free Offline Dictionary and Thesaurus That Works Great With Scrivener

Admittedly, my favorite thesaurus is my Old School desk copy with its duct tape and stickies and notes written in the margins.  However, I don't want to carry this thing with me everywhere I go, which means I need a good on-screen Thesaurus and Dictionary.

If I'm online, then Thesaurus.com and Dictionary.com work just fine.  However, if I don't want to open up an internet browser just to check for a synonym or a definition, I am stuck.  Or I used to be.

WordWeb Review:  I Like It.  I Really Like It. 

For the past week or two, I've been trying out WordWeb it's working out well.  Best thing?  It hangs out on my desktop toolbar, and I can access it even when I'm not online.

Which is great for many reasons including these two:
  1. WordWeb offers more to me than Scrivener does because Scrivener (a) has no internal dictionary or thesaurus, which I miss from my switch to Scrivener from Word; and (b) I'm not forced to go online via the Scrivener tool to access a thesaurus.
  2. If I'm writing, then I'm focused on the task at hand.  It's really (REALLY) tempting sometimes to go check email or jump onto Pinterest for a quick looksie when Scrivener brings me online to use a thesaurus.  WordWeb protects me from this temptation.  

Now, is WordWeb as great as my trusty print version?  Nope.  

It's a nice tool, though, and I think you might find it helpful, too.

Plus, the price is right.  It's free.

Check out more at CNET -- where WordWeb has been rated "spectacular" by the CNET editors and has received a five-star rating by over 1200 users.


1/10/14

YELP Online Reviews: Virginia Appeals Court Forces YELP to Identify 7 Anonymous Reviewers Who Wrote Bad Reviews

Those who wrote anonymous negative reviews placed upon the YELP online review site are no longer protected from being identified, rules a Virginia appellate court in Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., v. John Doe #1, et al. (Read the complete opinion below.)

Precedent-Setting Case: Anonymous Reviewers Must Be Identified by Yelp.com

The Virginia Court of Appeals has set precedent in a case where the owner of a carpet cleaning company, Joe Hadeed, sued Yelp and seven John Does (anonymous reviewers) because Mr. Hadeed believes that seven (7) anonymous reviews placed on Yelp.com about his company, Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., have hurt his business.

Hadeed wants Yelp to reveal the identities of the seven anonymous reviewers, in order to enable him to prove that they were not customers of his business and therefore had placed reviews on the online review site that were false, defamatory, and illegal.

Yelp, represented by Public Citizen, argued that the anonymity of the seven reviewers is protected by the First Amendment and that their names should remain secret. Yelp argued that before identities are revealed, the court must determine if the plaintiff’s claim of defamation is viable. This argument failed at trial and the appellate court has now confirmed that these anonymous bad reviews aren’t going to receive constitutional protection.

The Virginia appeals court found that the trial court judge did not abuse his discretion by holding Yelp in civil contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena duces tecum served upon it by Hadeed. Yelp must provide the identities behind the seven bad reviews to Hadeed.

The anonymous reviews, which claimed that Hadeed Carpet Cleaning was guilty of false advertising in its offers of low prices for carpet cleaning, were consumer reviews that would violate Yelp’s Terms of Service if they were written by people who were not actual customers of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning.

What the Hadeed Carpet Cleaning Case Against YELP Means To You 

This Virginia case may change how online reviews for goods and services are treated not only in Virginia but in other states around the country. By requiring Yelp to reveal the names of the seven anonymous reviewers, bad reviews left online are not as safe from the writers having their identities revealed as in times past. (Note: we don’t know if there are really seven different people here. This could boil down to one person who has posted online using seven different IP addresses from different devices.)

1. Anonymous Reviewers Aren’t As Safe From Revelation 

Anonymous reviews left on YELP or other review sites may not be protected if their anonymity is legally challenged. This means anyone writing a negative review online should be aware that if they don’t want to leave their name as a reviewer, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be identified in the future.

Anonymous isn’t as anonymous anymore. Critics argue that this ruling may discourage people from leaving valid criticism of bad service with online review sites. Others argue that trial judges are going to be making the privacy decisions here, and legitimate, honest negative reviews aren’t the target here. It’s fake bad reviews left behind the mask of the name “Anonymous” that judges will allow to be disclosed.

2. Businesses Victimized By Bad Reviews Have Increased Ability to Fight Back 

Bad reviews that are real are one thing. Bad reviews that are fake, and placed on a review site with the intent to hurt and harm a business, are another.  This case may help companies, including law firms, protect themselves in the future from the real harm that can come from fraudulent online negative reviews.

Update:  The Atlantic reports that Yelp will be appealling to the Virginia Supreme Court.  Stay tuned.

 Read the Virginia Opinion here: